On NPR, All Things Considered last week, Christina Shokley mentions the classic questions of journalism, or any human story with a logos, and it set us to musin’ about the four causes in Aristotle’s Metaphysics in relation. The classic example, easily seen in an artificial being, is a table: The what is the table, the purpose to read or eat, the material wood or such, and the efficient cause is the human carpenter, with the form in mind to suit the function, setting to work, each thing in order. In our oversimplified account, the formal and final causes go together, and the material and efficient causes go together. In another way, the final and efficient causes occur in time, while the formal and the material occur in space. “Who” is the particular being in a human story, but a story might concern other beings or even, say, a rock that fell and got wedged in a river, etc. Most particular beings, those with extension, taking up space, if you have noticed, are living beings, and this in itself is strange. But the Aristotle leaves it for us to notice that natural being are not as clear regarding the purpose as are artificial beings, things made, mostly by man. The “what” of a thing cannot be understood without its function, and living things have purposes of their own, actions as well as causes. Animals that move themselves have purposes to their actions, and so especially have stories, with a Who What Where When Why, and How!
When and how both concern time. Where and who concern space, or space as well as time, since all space is at a certain time, and all time that of a certain space. though “what” need not be spatial, and like a verbal noun, might identify a process.
Earth, air and water are three conditions of matter, while fire, or energy, as an efficient cause. Mater and energy are said to be nonconvertible, and space and time to be inseparably related, while none of these are logos or meaning, which pertains hardly at all to the material and almost entirely to the formal cause. There is no matter without form, even a rock, while there is lots of form without any matter at all, such as the logos of stratification or the eternal truths of math and logic, or the metaphysics of journalism.
I’ll be sure to dig out my Aristotle, Metaph. I.26? and rethink all this, when I get when!